The Artistic Process



The plan today was to freshen up the paint on the fruit tree trunks, which helps keep the borers away.  But, our paint had frozen over the winter and was no good so we had to put that off for another day.  Leif would have none of this and insisted that he paint SOMETHING this morning.  So, we set him up and let him go to it.
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He’s very proud of his work and plans to display it on his wall once it’s dry.

Traveling with kids – Week 4 and Finally home!

Last night I fell asleep to the music of cicadas and crickets.  I didn’t realize I missed it until I heard it coming though my window.  Ahhhh!!!  Home!

We had a wonderful final week of travels and rode TWO trains!  We took the cog railway up to the top of Pikes Peak, one of Colorado’s 14,000 foot mountains (they have 53!)  Cogs are used for steep terrain (generally over 7%, but some of the inclines on our ride were 25%!!!).  It’s basically a gear on the bottom of the train that connects with the middle rail.  This keeps the train from slipping on the tracks during a steep incline.

Here is what the railing looks like.  Leif really enjoyed learning how this works.  There are currently only 3 cog railways in use in the US: Pike’s Peak in Colorado, Mount Washington in NH, and Quincy and Torch Lake in MI.  (See the deer in the woods?)



pikespeak3You can see the angle of the incline here.  Looks more like we are in a plane!


Above the tree line.


“The hills are alive….”  I could just see Julie Andrews dancing in the fields. 🙂  The grass up here grows SOOOOOO slowly…. about an inch every hundred years.  So, we cold still see the 100 year old wagon trail.pikespeak8


In the distance is a working gold mine!pikespeak11

View from the top.pikespeak12

One thing that I learned on the trip was that Katherine Lee Bates wrote the poem  America the Beautiful after being inspired during the wagon trip she took up to the top of Pike’s Peak in 1893.  Isn’t that cool? pikespeak13



Since this was the highest point we would be at during our trip we emptied our water bottle of water and put the cap back on for the long trip back home.  We talked to the kids about air pressure and how it would change the bottle as we traveled home.

Leif loves his sister so much.  But he DID NOT want her in this picture with him.  There was a long line of people waiting to take pictures of the summit sign and the train was ready to leave.  So, since Leif couldn’t have a picture by himself, he ran around screaming like a crazy man.  Toby finally had to help him off of the rock and back into the train.  Poor little man.  The low oxygen must have been getting to him 🙂



The sweet deer came right up to the train on the way back down.


The next day, we headed to Durango to get on the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.  This train ride was a full day adventure!  DSNGRR19


DSNGRR2We had a book about the railway that described the language of the different horn blasts.  So, we could tell when the engineer was signaling to his conductors, when he was warning about crossings up ahead, when he was about to stop…


DSNGRR4 Some parts of the rail line were over some pretty steep cliffs.  This is looking straight down from our window.



Sometimes, when going over bridges, the train would blow steam out of the side.  This helped clean out a part of the engine (I don’t remember what part 🙂


Over the bridge.DSNGRR8


We stopped twice to take on more water.  The water tanks were fed by streams above them.  The tank fills up and overflows back into the stream.DSNGRR10

Our destination was Silverton.  The town was named after the ton of silver that you could find there.  (A little gold, too.)  But it was known for being a bit of a lawless town.  There were 40 bordellos on one street!  There was so much trouble making in the town that Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson were brought in to try to keep the peace.  When they couldn’t, Masterson left and Earp began dealing cards for local saloons.





Of course, there is ‘mining’ for the kids in Silverton.  DSNGRR16

They were very happy with their haul.



After a couple of hours in town, we headed back to Durango.  The train in front of us was having some troubles, so this trip took a bit longer.DSNGRR20

And some of us got tired 🙂DSNGRR21

Selfie with the kid.DSNGRR22

When we finally got back to the hotel, this is what the sky looked like.DSNGRR23

We had thought about making a few other stops, but we all agreed that we had seen as many things as we could and it was time to make the 26 hour trip home.  We passed a train carrying wind turbine blades.  I had no idea they were so big!!!  Each of these blades took up two train cars!!windturbine

On our way through Oklahoma, the sky began to darken.storm1

And lightning began to explode in the air!!!  The sky was pitch black at this point, but the clouds look white because of the lightning inside.storm2



We stopped in Memphis for a night and checked out our bottle, since this was the lowest point in our trip.


Yesterday, 4300 total miles later, we finally rolled into home!  What a trip!  It really couldn’t have worked out much better!  But, man, is it great to be home!

The pumpkin vines have to be 30 feet long!home

The tomatoes are bigger than my hand!home2

And the flowers are gorgeous!home4


So, now we go back to our normal routine.  Time for me to start planning out the next school year for the kids, getting things canned up from the garden, and enjoying the last days of summer.

Where should we go next year???


Week 3 – traveling with kids

Hello there!  And welcome to our third week of travels.  We continued to explore around the Boulder area, including the areas right outside our home.  Leif made fast friends with the neighbor’s little boy, and they played in the yard almost every morning.   They share a love of construction trucks and were wowed by the big compost truck that drove up one morning (Boulder picks up trash, recycling, and all of your compostables!!  Isn’t that awesome?!)


We drove into Denver one rainy day to explore the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  We spent many hours there and still couldn’t have seen half of it!  We started with a 3-D IMAX movie about Lemurs, which we all loved, then went on to the dinosaur exhibit…


…the kids hands-on areas…


…learned about water and land formations…


…and saw a mummy exhibit, learned about Colorado wildlife, and more!

We took a day to drive out to Eldorado Springs to swim.  The pool there was part of a resort that opened almost 100 years ago and is fed by natural springs.  So, it’s very cold!!  Set up against the Eldorado State Park, the view from the pool is amazing.  The kids enjoyed the super long slide and floating around the pool for a bit, but it was a wee bit too cold for our southern blood (I admit it… I didn’t even get in).




Our third week of travel has also been our most trying so far.The kids were getting a bit tired of exploring, so we spent some days just going to a park or watching a movie.  Also, when you spend 24/7 together you can easily get on each other’s nerves. I found myself a bit jealous of Toby, who got to go to work three days during the past week.  Yes, I know it’s work, but it’s still time to yourself  🙂  I thought it might help dynamics a bit to get the kids apart for a while.  So, Friday night, I took Kaia out for dinner, just to two of us.  We drove to the sweet town of Lyons and stopped in at the Lyons Fork restaurant.  It was nice to get out of the city and chill a bit by two aspen trees.  I don’t know if I’d ever seen an aspen before this trip.  I do love the way the leaves shake when the wind blows, and the trunks look so wise with the ‘eyes’ on their bark. (Kind of reminds me of the weirwood trees from Game of Thrones.)lyonsfork

Kaia and I had a decadent meal with truffle fries… (yes, she is really enjoying her root beer!)lyonsfork2

and grilled salmon over parsnips and asparagus, topped with a pesto sauce!  YUM!!   We finished it off with a white chocolate creme brule and drove home very happy.


This morning, we packed up and finally headed back out on the road.  Our friends were such amazing hosts.  I can only imagine what it’s like to have a whole family move in and take over your space for almost 3 weeks.  On top of that, they have a young baby and just moved to Boulder a few months ago!  Wonderful people!

Tonight, we are in the Sunflower Lodge.  I was lucky enough to stumble on this place through the grand ol’ internet.  The kids were so excited when the owner’s kitty came out for some loving (we miss our fur babies)!  She’s not spoiled, is she?



We headed to the Cave of the Winds (ok, how many of you are thinking of farts right now??  Tell the truth!) for a little exploring.

You drive up a handful of switch backs to get to the main house where the view is gorgeous.


Once inside the cave you’ll find an old rope ladder from the original explorers.cave2


Leif loved calling out the names of the formations when he saw stalactites or stalagmites, popcorn rocks, or crystals.cave4



After the tour, we headed to dinner at the Airplane Restaurant!  The restaurant is built around an old Boeing KC-97 tanker!  Though there is a restaurant attached we actually got to sit in the plane for dinner.




And do a bit of flying. plane4

Tomorrow starts our final week of travels.  We have a lot of wonderful things planned (including two train rides!), but I think we are all a bit home sick.  It will be nice to sleep in our own beds and snuggle up the animals.


Week 2.1 – Isabelle Lake

Toby had such a wonderful time hiking towards Apache Peak that he had to take the kids and I back… and it was breathtaking!

The kids were most excited about the snow!  We saw a bit at the bottom of the trail and a bunch at Isabelle Lake!

apachekids1I took lots of wild flower pictures.  Many I’d never seen before and the colors were so rich!






apachekids6There was a little bit of complaining about going on a long hike, but attitudes changed pretty quickly once we got going.  It reminded Kaia and I of our time in the Ponderosa Pine forests last year.  The air was cool and crisp and smelled of conifers.  So refreshing. (This is the lower lake, Long Lake.)







apachekids12Can you see the slithering “S” back and forth on the snow?  Snow boarders have hiked into crazy areas to snowboard down!


I love the vibrant colors in this picture!








Isabelle Lake still had a good bit of snow around her.  On the left is what looks like a snow damn coming off of the lower side of the lake.apachekids23


(Yes, I am wearing my Chacos.  I wear them every where and didn’t even bring another pair of shoes on the trip 🙂 )apachekids25

The river on the right was flowing down from snow melt up above.  It punched a whole through the snow and fed into the lake.apachekids27

Don’t get too close.  It’s a steep drop and a very cold swim under the snow!apachekids28

This was the view from our lunch spot.  The water falls off the far side of the lake…apachekids30

…And DOWNNNNNN to the river below.apachekids29




Such a lovely day!!



Traveling with kids – Week 2

teatour3We had another wonderful week in Boulder, starting it off with the Celestial Seasonings factory tour.  The tea factory is only a couple of miles from where we are staying, so how could we pass it up?  Our tickets were sample baggies of tea which the kids thought were fabulous.  While we waited for the tour to begin we filled up on yummy sips of different teas, read a bit about the history of the tea company, and looked at gorgeous tea pots and a lovely dress made of tea bags.  The highlight of the tour for leif was definitely watching all of the conveyor belts move the tea along.



We also hit the Butterfly Pavilion.  We loved hanging out in the butterfly room, but also learned a lot about other insects.








This is where the chrysalis hung until they hatched and were released into the butterfly room.


Leif got to hold Rosie, the Salmon Pink Tarantula, and pet a hissing cockroach (Kaia left the room) 🙂


We went on another factory tour,this time at the Schacht Spindle factory .  This is where my spinning wheel was made 25 years ago.  We got to put on our ear and eye protection and head into the thick of things.  All the parts for their spinning wheels, looms, and drop spindles are milled on site and put together by hand.



This is Bree putting together one of the looms (the Wolf Pup, I believe).  She showed us how it all fits together and we learned a bit about how it works.schacthbree

For each spinning wheel there is only one crafter.  This man (Ben, I think) makes all of their Schacht-Reeves spinning wheels


I love the way the drips look on the drip rack.  Each piece of wood is coated with Danish Oil.


And this gorgeous picture is a weaving!!!  A weaving!!  I can’t even begin to imagine the detail and planning that went into this!  Such talent!


Of course, we also spent time at local pools.  We found one community pool that has 2 water slides, a lazy river, water play area for little kids, and a lap pool.  It was crazy!!  And it’s in the community center.  MAN!  Asheville seriously needs one of these.


pool2Toby and his friend, Mark, headed up to Apache Peak for a hike.  Apache is over 13,000 feet tall!  They had such an amazing time that we are all going back next week.  We won’t go all the way to the top with the kids, but we’ll still get to enjoy some lovely views.

Apache peak

Apache peak2

Apache peak3With all the rains they had in Colorado last year, there was still a good bit of snow on the mountain, and the melting snow created some pretty fast flowing rivers.

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The lakes still had a good bit of ice on them.
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Apache peak7

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The Marmots on the trail were super friendly.Apache peak9

Apache peak10

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Close to the top, there was so much snow that it covered the trail.  The guys tried to find a good way around, but the skies darkened and they decided to head back down before the storms rolled in.

Apache peak14

On they way out they saw moose!


I’m super excited about going back!

We went on Banjo Billy’s Bus Tour of Boulder yesterday and learned a bit about the history of Boulder.



Today, we took a shorter hike around Settler’s Park.  The trailhead is just on the edge of downtown, but the views are amazing!





Yes, the kids have had some emotional times and some breakdowns, but all in all, at the end of each day we pretty much all look like this… happily exhausted.harddaysleep





Traveling with the kids – Week 1

For the last few years, Toby and I have talked about how nice it would be to take a month out of each year to travel with the kids.  It would be a fabulous way to introduce them to other cultures, people, languages, etc.  We thought it might be best, though, to wait until Leif was 5 years old to do this, and to start in the States, just to see how we all did with being away from home for a month.

It just so happens that some good friends of ours just moved to Boulder, Colorado earlier this year and they invited us out for a visit in July.  We also have a friend who needed a place to stay for the month of July and offered to take care of our homestead.  BAM!  Couldn’t have been more perfect.

For a few months prior to our trip, I started collecting little entertainment goodies for the kids, and wrapped each one in brown paper.  Every few hours of our trip (while we are in the car at least) if the kids are well behaved, they get to open another package.  We also borrowed a DVD player from a friend, and laminated road maps so that the kids could mark off our travels on the maps.  We left last Sunday with the kids in PJ’s surrounded by pillows and entertainment.

entertainmentI will admit, I was very apprehensive about the drive.  I thought that there might be a bit too much bickering going on in the back seat for my liking.  But, things went amazingly smooth.

Our drive took us about 3 days (with stops here and there).  Silly Putty and Mad Libs were a hit.  And, of course, the DVD player got some use!  We also tried our hands at making Car S’mores.


We wrapped the graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate in aluminum foil and put it on the dashboard in the bright sun.  It didn’t take long before the chocolate had melted and the kids got a tasty treat.


Oh, and the kids also got to experience PopRocks for the first time.  (I know it sounds like all I did was give the kids sugar, but I promise I didn’t 🙂


Another way to keep the kids entertained was by rating all of the bathroom stops.  In case you are wondering, the most pleasant/cleanest bathroom was a tie between the Breaktime at Booneville, MO and the 24/7 Travel Store west of Topeka, KS.  The 24/7 may win out due to their used book store inside the rest area!  (We even found a Reishi mushroom growing out of the lawn at the Kentucky Welcome Center rest stop!)

With the kids marking our progress on their maps, we noticed that most states most populated cities were not also the state capitals.  In fact, in only 17 of our 50 states are the capital cities also the largest cities in that state.  Can you name them?

On the way out to Boulder, we made a stop in Troy, IL to visit friends we hadn’t seen in almost 8 years.  The kids wore themselves out playing while Kristine made wonderful meals and we had great conversation.  Thank you Kristine, for having us out to your lovely farm!




These silly turkeys loved to gobble.  And when one gobbled, they all gobbled.  Leif discovered that they would gobble every time he screamed.  I wonder what the neighbors were thinking?

We all loved seeing the sea of windmills along the highway once we got into CO.   This happened to coincide with seeing a video about two Russian scientists who are attempting to build Tesla’s Wardenclyff tower.  So, we learned a bit about energy and how it’s transmitted.  Leif thought this was pretty dang cool!


Now in Boulder, we are spending our time swimming at the most fabulous community pool, hiking up in the Rocky Mountains, visiting markets, and enjoying time with our friends.

Lily Lake is in the shadow of Longs Peak (a 14,000 foot mountain).


We had a lovely hike around the lake and up into the mountains a bit.






The mountains here are so amazing and stunningly beautiful, just like my mountains back home.  Yet, they are extremely different.  So stark and dry and sharp.  The mountains I’ve grown up with are lush and green, softened and molded with age.  I love the contrast between the two and learning about these new mountains.

(See the rock climber?)



Kaia shot this picture of me photographing the storm rolling in.


The storm over Longs Peak



There were some VERY friendly chipmunks who may be getting fed a bit too much by the tourists 🙂

This one is trying to steal a compass from Leif’s hands.


And this one was a bit of a camera hog.


On the way to the mountain, we found this gorgeous church growing out of the stone.lilylakechurch

Back in Boulder, Leif had a big thumbs up for the big slide at the community pool!communitypool


All of us took turns on the big slide!  There seriously needs to be one of these at our local pool in Asheville!

Today we explored the famous Boulder Farmers Market.  Kaia said, “It’s more Gluten free than Asheville!!”  And Leif ran around like a crazy boy (and then got swung around a bit)!



We stopped at an art booth and learned a bit about the Ndebele people of South Africa and their style of house

And of course, there has to be a cute picture of our friend’s little boy Isaac, who loves peek-a-boo.


Sustainable terrarium

Kaia and I came across this article about a man who started a terrarium in 1960.  He stopped watering it in 1973 and it has lived, sealed up, since then.  The plants, soil, and water have created a sustainable system. Kaia was intrigued by this idea and wanted to try to start her own.  Here’s what we did:

We found this jar at Target.  It’s probably about 2 or 2 1/2 gallons.  The top has a rubber seal to help keep the moisture in (and other stuff out).


Kaia used some gravel and marbles to fill the bottom 2 inches.  This will help with drainage so the soil doesn’t stay too wet.terrarium3

We then put a thin layer of charcoal.  This was recommended in a video we watched about starting terrariums to help keep the soil fresh.terrarium4

We then put in a layer of soil.  We used a mix of two different potting soils (one seemed too fluffy and one was too heavy, so we mixed them).  These three layers made up the lower 1/3 of the jar.terrarium2

Then it was time for the plants.  Kaia chose a creeping fig, blue star creeper, and two little ferns.  She picked off any dead material and spaced the plants out  in the jar.  The largest plant went in first.terrarium5

Once the plants were tucked in, we filled in any gaps with more soil.

terrarium6 She added about two ounces of water.  We’ll add more if needed.  Better to add too little than too much.  You can always add more, but it’s not easy to take out extra.terrarium7

Then, put the top on…terrarium8

And admire your work!

terrarium9We are excited to see how this grows!


Maple Taffy

No, my kids don’t get snow days off.  We still plop ourselves in front of the wood stove and get our school work done.  But THEN, we get to make maple taffy!  It’s an experiment, right???

First you heat your maple syrup to 250 degrees (the “soft ball” stage – hehehe).  We also put a small pot of honey on the stove to make some honey taffy.


When your syrup reaches 250, turn off the heat and have the kids head out in their long johns and fill up a bowl of snow…. pack it down firmly.


Drizzle the syrup into the snow.


Roll it up onto a skewer.


tap it in the snow a bit to be sure it’s cooled off and EAT IT!  YUM!


We got tired of rolling them up and just made plops in the snow.  We all liked the maple syrup flavor better.



I know, I know!  You don’t have to tell me that making pure sugar candies when the kids are snowed in isn’t the smartest of ideas.  I just couldn’t help myself.  It looked like such a fun and yummy experiment.  Now, I just have to shove the kids into their winter clothes and toss them outside to play!!

When the temperature drops…

icebubbles4Like much of the rest of the country, we’ve been hit by an arctic blast today, so we thought we’d get outside (all bundled up, of course) and have a little fun with the cold.

First, we put some bubble fluid in small bowls and used straws to blow bubbles.  At first, they just froze and popped.  But as the bubbles tumbled out of the bowl we noticed that some of them were freezing to the side of the bowl or the table before they popped.  If you touched them, they would shatter like glass.  So very cool!



The aftermath looks like broken glass, doesn’t it?



Then we decided to fill up some balloons and ice cube trays with colored water and leave them outside to freeze.iceballoons

These turned out so lovely. (We popped the frozen ice cubes out of their trays and put them all in water to refreeze.)


iceballoons2 iceballoons3

iceballoons4After taking pictures we put the ice back outside.  Tomorrow we plan to bring them in and use them to make ice paintings on thick white paper.



Child guided learning or Going with the Sappy Flow

The other day, Leif and I picked up our camera from the repair shop and noticed a large pine tree just outside of the front door.  The tree was dripping with sap.  In fact, there was so much sap that it looked like the sidewalk next to the tree was covered in candle wax.  Leif began asking all kinds of questions about how the tree makes sap and what it does.  He stuck his fingers in it and got himself all gooey.  We talked about how the sap is part of the tree’s immune system and when there is an injury it makes a scab, just like our bodies do.  I told him that the sap helps fight infections and that you can make it into a salve and use it on wounds.

“I want to make a sap salve for my wounds, Mommy!”  Leif said as his eyes lit up with excitement.  And, of course, I thought, ‘Yay!  An herbal project!!’.

I happened to have a little stash of pine sap that Kaia and I collected when we were out in Arizona this summer.




So, we grabbed the sap and pulled out our HerbalRootsZine about Pine (have I told you how much we LOVE this zine?!). We read all about Pine and it’s uses, and then headed to the kitchen for a little mixology 🙂



We warmed the sap in Olive oil and added a bit of beeswax.  Kaia asked to add some Lavender Essential Oil for its healing properties.  So, we tossed that in, too.




Once it was all mixed, we poured it into our jar and let it cool.


Super simple, super fun, and lots learned.  Leif went around telling everyone that he has a pine sap salve for his cuts and boo boos, and though his chocolate-covered face looks sad, he was actually super excited about his accomplishment.  He said he’s looking forward to his first cut so that he can try it out. 🙂





I don’t know why I love to see my kids writing so much.  Seeing their words on paper, that tangible, written expression of themselves, it really makes my heart feel warm and happy.

My first child can be a perfectionist.  She wants to know that what she does will come out perfectly before doing it.  This can be hard on her, since most things take a bit of practice.  Because of this she literally refused to read anything until she was 7, saying she “might pronounce the words wrong”.  I was worried about it at first, as many first time parents would be, thinking she might ‘fall behind’.  But, when she decided she was ready to read and write, she picked it up with such a vengeance that she now reads faster than I do.

With my second child, I am a bit more relaxed.  I know he will come to things in his own time, just as my first child has.  He, however, decided that he wanted to read and write from the moment he could understand the concepts.  When he was 2 1/2 years old he got angry with me for not ‘doing school’ with him, like I do with his older sister, and asked for his own “curriculum”.  I wasn’t planning on any formal schooling until he was 5 or 6 years old, but he was so motivated I decided to start him with All About Reading and Moebius Noodles.

He started reading simple words when he was three and now, at 4 1/2, is reading and writing simple sentences.  I’m so excited for him!  He’s launching into a new world of independence, exploration, and expression.   I LOVE seeing him plop himself down on the couch with a book, or write me a love note! (My ‘to do’ list last night was “Mom, Hug Leif!”)

welcomehomedadToday, his dad came home from a week long trip.  Leif wanted to welcome him home with a sign that said, “Welcome home dad.  When you come in and put your stuff away, come and see my new legos”  🙂  I talked him into a simpler version “Welcome home dad.  Play LEGOS with me.”



In our home, even kitties do school… with their pj’s on…. in the cat tent 🙂



School has been going fairly well this semester.  It’s been a little harder with 4 year old energy around the house while Kaia and I are working on more advanced subjects.  She has a hard time concentrating with Leif doing anything in her vicinity.  If I sent him up with something fun for him to do, she wants to play along.  If I’m not doing school with him, he often gets mad, “Why don’t I have more schoolwork?!?”  🙂  I can’t complain that he loves learning.  He’s reading simple sentences and started writing short words.  This morning, as I watched him write, my mind flashed forward to him writing me a little letter, “Dear mommy, I love you!” or something like that.  My whole body feel warm and fuzzy.

Kaia’s semester is falling into place in a way that I hadn’t planned, but am very thankful for.  We’ve begun studying Einstein and his though experiments using the book Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids.  The experiments can be done with household objects and are fairly simple so Leif can enjoy them.  Kaia and I take them a bit deeper.

While we learn about the life of Einstein, we are also studying this same time period in history.  We’ve read Miss Spitfire, about Annie Sullivan and Hellen Keller, read a bit about Nikola Tesla and his inventions, and looked through If You Lived 100 Years Ago.  We just finished up a fabulous book about immigration in the early 1900’s called Shutting out the Sky.  Kaia has decided that she wants to take a trip to NY to visit Ellis Island and the NY Tenement Museum.  (She has come a long way from wanting to visit NY because of the American Girl Doll factory.)  We’ve just moved into The Unsinkable Molly Brown  (Titanic) and will go from here into discussing women’s suffrage and WWI (A Time for Courage) and WWII (Number the Stars).   I may be enjoying the history reading even more than she is!




Arizona, beautiful Arizona.

Kaia and I got back from our 9 day AZ trip late Wed. night.  We saw some stunning sites, met some wonderful people, and had the most amazing time together!  Our original purpose for traveling was to go to the Herbal Resurgence Conference. But, we couldn’t go all the way across the country and not explore a bit!

The first day we were there, we spent time at Walnut Canyon.  It’s a relatively small canyon compared to some of the others in AZ, but it is home to many ancient cliff dwellings of the Sinagua people.

Just a short hike into the canyon you find evidence of community life from a thousand years ago.

Rooms were built around rock that had been carved out by ancient rivers.

The small rooms still had fire stained ceilings
After visiting Walnut Canyon, Kaia and I checked ourselves in to the Mormon Lake Lodge where we spent the next 4 days enjoying herbal education, new friends, and great music.
The pines around here are amazing.  In fact, we discovered that we were in the largest continuous Ponderosa Pine forest in the world.
Kaia made quick friends, not just with the horses, but with another 10 year old who she played with any chance she got.  They hung out at the stables, made mermaids by the lake, and sold Kaia’s hair clips and necklaces together.
Our sweet cabin neighbors each bought one of her hair clips and posed for me.  They also prepared big feast each night and invited us over to dine!
While Kaia was playing or in her classes, I got to go to a crazy number of herbal classes with some amazing teachers!! Classes on Pine, Hawthorne, Artemisia, herbs and digestion, warning signs for herbalists, tongue and pulse diagnosis, herb walks….  I’d taken a step back from herbs since closing my clinic after Leif was born, and it felt so good to immerse myself in it again!
Once we left Mormon Lake, we headed up to the Grand Canyon.  I’ve only been to the Grand Canyon once before this trip, and I just remember standing deep in the canyon walls and feeling completely overwhelmed.  The immensity of it can’t be put into words.   I wanted Kaia to experience this in person.
We hiked about a mile down the Bright Angel Trail.
through tunnels
meeting spotted squirrels
And a family of mule deer
The skies were insanely blue!
There were old pictoglyphs carved into the wall (do you see them?  In red?)…
and the Colorado River in the distance.
On our final day, we took the scenic route back to Phoenix via the Oak Creek Canyon Drive.  We stopped off at Slide Rock State Park and had ourselves in stitches, laughing as we slid down the extremely cold river.
Again, the skies were so blue they seemed painted.
The river has carved a natural slide through the sand stone perfect for cold water fun.
And, BOY, was it cold.  The kind of cold that leaves you gasping for breath.
We had to jump out and throw ourselves down on the warm rock.
Going on adventures with your kids is the best!  We almost didn’t want to leave.  Almost.  Except that we had my sweet hubby and little boy waiting us, arms open ready for big hugs!
I hope you have been on some great adventures lately!

Decoupage baskets and a celebration of eggs

We had a gooey time last week putting together these adorable cloth baskets.  We followed these instructions, only altering them to make the baskets a bit deeper, and using Modge Podge as the final coat of glue.

Leif tired of the messy, gluey hands very quickly, but continues to pick out fabric pieces for me as I glued them on to his balloon.

After we covered the balloons thoroughly with cloth and glue, we hung them to dry by the wood fire.

When it was completely dry, the kids popped the balloons and removed them from the bowl.  I WISH I had gotten a video of this.  The sound that the balloon made as it slowly released itself from the bowl was like a build up to an implosion.  This sucking sound that made you think the bowl would collapse down to nothing. It was so crazy we all went wild when it happened!

We punched holes in the sides and strung on the ribbon handles… and wore them as hats!

It just so happened that the day after we made these, we headed to a fabulous party, hosted by the also fabulous Ashley English, in celebration of eggs.  (She is working on her sixth book due out in 2014.  This one is going to be about handmade gatherings and celebrations, and from the fun our family has had at these parties, this book is definitely going to be a keeper.)

There were, of course, egg hunts!  Egg hunts in the bamboo forest…

Egg hunts in the gardens…

Egg toss and egg rolling competitions.

Silk egg dying (Yes!  You are looking at a hard boiled egg silk dyed with an old neck tie that had elephants on it!!)

And a table spread fit for a king!  Everything was either made with eggs or had eggs in the title 🙂  We brought a pumpkin flan (yes!  It was paleo)!!

And, to top it all off, a magnificent, melt-in-your-mouth Pavlova!  (Ashley, this recipe had better be published, because it alone is reason to get the book!!)

(Folks, there were actually two decadent desserts at the party, one made by Ashley and the other by Dan and Jael of the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, and neither of them had wheat!!!  What a treat!!)

“Just one more chocolate, mom??!!”

And when we got home, it was time to organize the booty.  (There are three more silk dyed eggs here, too.)

And, in celebration of the egg, my ladies wanted to let you know how hard they are working now that it is spring.


Hope you had a lovely weekend!

More Sacagawea

We continued our studies of Sacagawea and the Lewis and Clarke Expedition this week with some basket making.  We used a kit from a local craft store.  It was said to be ‘easy to use’. Other than a bit of prep work (measuring and cutting the reeds, and dying a bit of it blue), it really was fairly easy to do.

The kit came with enough to make two baskets.  So, I made one for Leif while Kaia made hers.  Mine was much easier to make.  Mainly because I didn’t have a kitten trying to attack the moving weavers, or jump into the basket every chance he got.

We’d like to get to fire making soon, but I’m hoping for a bit warmer weather first 🙂

My plan was to move farther into the 1800’s with our history studies, but Kaia found a book on Marie Antoinette that she really wants to read.  So, we are stepping back to the French Revolution for a bit.


The kids and I have been having a hard time following any history curriculum.  It seems like there are too many names and dates and too little hands on experiences.  We find ourselves yawning.  So, we put the curriculum aside and decided to do some living history.  We’ve just wrapped up the American Revolution and are now learning about Sacagawea.  The book we used was mostly about what her childhood might have been like, with a few chapters at the end about her travels with Lewis and Clarke.  The book discusses basket making, salmon spawning, leather working, fire starting, and other skills that are fabulous to work into a homeschoolers day!  We watched a great video on the life cycle of salmon, and I may pick up some salmon to cook over an open fire, or even try drying into jerky.  Kaia was most interested in leather working.  So, we got some scraps and she created different types of pouches.

She made a simple circle pouch:

And Leif helped me make one for him:

Then Kaia did a flap style purse out of some buffalo skin:

She and I both love how this one turned out!

They also worked in a full afternoon of playing in their teepees, ‘hunting and fishing’, and trading with the tababone (“white face”).

We wrapped it up with a fish craft:

Next week, basket weaving, fire starting, and a documentary about Lewis and Clarke!

Filling our days

We seem to have no trouble filling our days with fun indoor activities while the weather is cold outside.  I’m glad.  I don’t care to hear the kids moan, “I’m bored!” (I’m sure my mother felt the same way about me 🙂

We’ve been writing letters and numbers in shaving cream on a cookie sheet….. and on his pants, and on his arms, and on his sweater, and on his socks…. (Kaia got into it, too, writing in cursive).


Right now, it’s actually easier for her to write in shaving cream than on paper.  The kittens are a little too interested in her wiggling pencil.


Kaia and I took a spinning class a few weeks ago and I’m having a blast practicing.  A friend let me borrow her wheel and this is what I made today.  It’s my second skein.  Next, Leif says I have to spin some bright blue yarn so I can knit him a Perry the Platypus hat.




The Blue Enchantress

Kaia has become smitten with the Juniper series by Monica Furlong.  She decided, like the main character in the first book, that she wanted to create her own cloak.  Over the past month and a half, she has been cutting, stitching, harvesting, and producing an amazing creation.

Of course, we didn’t plan to sheer the sheep and weave the wool, like Juniper did.  We just went to Jo Ann’s fabric store and bought some 🙂  But, she did harvest herbs from our land to stuff in the secret pockets. (Lavender, thyme, lambs ear, rose petals, and a few others)


And she used a button that Toby made for her out of Maple and Black Walnut.

And she made the button loop out of yarn that a friend of ours spun from her angora bunny.

I think it’s fabulous and I’m so proud of her!  She’s quite a lady!!

Learning his name

Leif is very interested in his alphabet.  He’s often telling me things like, “Hey, Mom, fish starts with ffff, fff, ‘F'”.  And he’s super excited about writing his name.  He’s still young and working on his hand/eye coordination, and keeping a steady hand.  So, I started by writing his name on a chalk board and having him trace it with water (we used a little wooden stick with a sponge on the end that we got at a craft store).  The smiley faces helped him remember where to start his letter.

He noticed that we were writing his name in all capital letters and wanted to do it “the right way”.  Smiley faces didn’t work as well here.  So, I used little green dots as starting points instead.

Yes, it was a very exciting morning!

ABC Game

Leif is ecstatic about school this year.  Every day, including weekends, he asks me when we are going to do his school work.  He’s like a little puppy who needs to have a task 🙂

Today, I made him an ABC Game.  I spread out his ABC deck in alphabetical order.  Then he picked a card from out of a bag.  The cards were lower and upper case ABC’s.  He would tell me the name of the letter and the sounds it makes, then match it to the ones that were on the floor.  He LOVED it!  We even got the remote controlled cars into it, rolling the next card to him… Ahhhh, the simple things 🙂


Settling in

We’ve had a wonderfully full summer with activities to keep us very busy.  But, with perfect  timing, the weather has started to turn a bit cooler just as we are beginning to settle in to our school year and we are feeling ourselves begin to calm down a bit.

Leif LOVES his ‘school’ time.  He fusses when I put the books away.  He and Kaia spent an hour playing with his new wooden letters yesterday.  I sat and knit while she did the lesson for me 🙂

We’ve been putting up our harvests:

Raspberry/Elderberry Mead, Raspberry Jam with chocolate mint, Raspberries and Peaches in a light syrup, Peach/Apple Hard Cider, Cinnamon Peaches, Peach/Lavender Butter, Green Beans, Pickled Green Beans…

Peaches and Raspberries in a light syrup

And watching our little foster kitties grow big and strong (and very mischievous!)

Wilbur at maybe 3 weeks old

Little bellies getting bigger

Discovering new activities!

Kaia is finishing up a class on stage make up

Looking Older

Zombie Horror Makeup

on the left is 'plump', on the right is 'thin'

This was from Glamour day

We’ve been visiting farms and just enjoying each other’s company.

I have a general feeling of excitement about this Fall without any particular reason why.  I love this time of year. 🙂

What have you been up to?


Firefly Gathering

This summer, Kaia and I decided to consciously study survival skills.  What would we do if we were without our normal comforts, how would we survive?  What if she were lost in the forest?  What if she had to find clean water… food… fire…

I began a long list of things that I would like us to learn.  Things they don’t teach in schools that are supposed to teach our kids how to ‘survive’ in the big world.

This week, we had a fabulous opportunity to work on this list at the Firefly Gathering.  Only 50 minutes south of us, once a year, is an amazing gathering of people sharing their primitive survival and sustainable living skills.  So, Kaia and I packed up our hammocks and headed out.

During the 2 days we were there, the woods filled with tents, hammocks, and make-shift living quarters.  This picture above was taken as we arrived and the woods still seemed quiet.  We arrived a little early, so we had some time to wonder and explore.

We learned that there are many trade blankets and barter circles, but Kaia and I arrived without bringing anything to trade.  So, she quickly gathered sticks and began whittling.  At the trading blanket that we went to, people were looking to trade things like hand blown glass flutes, and hand crafted jewelry and medicines.  I was worried that no one would want to trade for a simple hand whittled boat.  But a sweet mother went and got her tie-dyes specifically so she could trade something with Kaia.  Very kind!

Kaia and I stayed for only two of the 4 days.  Her birthday is the same weekend as the gathering, so we left early to make cake and have a party.  But, while we were there, I took a class on starting a fire with flint and steel.  VERY cool!

Flint rock, piece of broken steel file, and my fire!!

Getting the fire going with a tiny ember.

It felt so empowering and satisfying to get a fire going with just a rock, a piece of steel, and some cedar bark!  I’m planning on making a little kit to carry with me, so watch out people!!

My second class, which Kaia took with me, was on snares and deadfall traps.  It was a fabulous class.  I think I’d like to get a book on this to really study some of the traps and snares in more detail.

Kaia, blocking one side of her figure 4 deadfall trap, so the prey has to enter on the side that will trigger the trap.

This is another fancy trap, I think the teacher said it originated in Africa.  Yes, our teacher wore only a leather loin cloth.  🙂

Snack break.

The third class I took was on making and using slingshots.  I really had no idea how potent slingshots could be.  I always thought of them as toys, but man, these things really packed a punch!  We started with a Y branch of a tree, whittled it down, added some rubber bands, and a leather pouch (to hold your ammo).  I was surprised how similar it is to archery in how you stand and aim.  I was able to hit targets pretty accurately.  The teacher is a well known archer and sling shot champion.  He also creates the most beautiful slingshots I’ve ever seen.

Mud ball pyramid, created after a heavy rain turned the parking lot to a mud pit.

My final class was on starting fire with a bow drill.  We created all of our equipment.  I have to say, flint and steel are so much easier.  I worked my butt off and was able to get lots of smoke and some nice embers, but I just could not get the fire to take.  By the end of the class, my hands had blisters and my arms were worn out.  Very fun though.  I need to practice at home so I can do it if I ever need to.

While I was doing all of this, Kaia was also taking classes on basket making and wilderness survival skills.  We both want to go back for the full 4 days next year!!!


What we’ve been up to…

As the school year comes closer to an end, we always seem to slack off in doing the actual school work, yet, somehow we seem to get more done.  I guess I don’t feel as stressed to do this curriculum or that project, and in letting go of that I feel more free to experiment.  I like that!

This past weekend, Kaia participated in the local Pine Car Derby race and took third place!  Here is her car zooming past the competition!!

I’m not sure how she got comfortable on the rock wall, but she always finds fun spots to read!  (yes, her ‘pleasure’ reading is any book from the Horrible series!)

I grabbed a book on Georgia O’Keeffe from the library for an impromptu artist study.  What a neat woman!  Kaia and I decided to try our hands at large flower art.  She’s working on her purple pansy here.

We used oil pastels, so our fingers were very colorful from all the smearing on the canvas.

Here’s mine.  I’m not sure what kind of flower I was looking at.  It was from a bush up the hill that was covered in little flowers like this.

And tell me, what is it about 3 year olds and chocolate ice cream?

This is Leif from this past weekend:

And here is Kaia from when she was three years old.  See any theme here?  (yes, I know, that is a crazy picture.  I think she stuffed most of the ice cream in her cheeks!)

Have a beautiful week!


Smooth Sailing

Don’t you love those days when it feels like things just flow smoothly?  Today was such a lovely day!  Leif let me sleep in a bit and Kaia woke up early, so we were all up by 8am.  We had a nice breakfast and then we just seemed to move from one thing to another.  There were lots of giggles, nice quiet contemplation, and enjoyment in just being together.  What a lovely start to the weekend!

Have a beautiful weekend!


Knitting for kids

I’ve been knitting for less than 4 years, but I love it so much!  It is such a soothing thing, the repetitive motion of the needles.  And seeing the finished product, this thing that I’ve created with my own hands, gives me such satisfaction.  I think this is such an important life skill for our kids to know.  Not just with knitting, but with the creation of anything from their own hands.  So many adults feel powerless to do things because they were never given the skills as kids.  “Oh, I can’t build something like that.  I don’t even know how to use a hammer.”  “I don’t think I could ever learn how to knit/sew/cook/build/craft”

This semester, at Kaia’s homeschool co-op, I’m teaching a kids knitting class.  I have 10 girls between the ages of 7 and 15.  Some have knitting experience, but most are beginners.  Right now, we are simply learning the basic knit stitch but it’s so wonderful to see their faces light up when they get it.  They may only get a couple of rows knit in the hour long class, but each class they build on that and their confidence in their new skill grows.  I’m hoping that, like me, they will find the joy in it to continue even after the class is over.

In today’s class, we took a break from the actual knitting to learn a little bit about where the yarn comes from.  A generous spinner, Lorri Helms, brought in her spinning wheel and two of her angora bunnies and volunteered her time to give us a spinning demonstration and talk about angora fiber.  The kids (and adults!) had a blast!

Yes!  That is a bunny on her lap that she is spinning from!  The loose fur comes right out.

She also talked a bit about caring for angora bunnies, and demonstrated the art of nail clipping.  Too funny!  He seemed to enjoy relaxing on her lap.

The girls then got to try their hands at spinning.

But, most of all, I think they liked petting the incredibly soft bunnies.


Encouraging writers

It seems that every new school year Kaia picks a subject to rebel against.  Last year, she did whatever she could to get out of writing in any form.  So, this year, I’m getting super creative with her assignments.  If there is more to writing than just sitting down at the table and putting words on lined paper, then it holds her interest more.  Of course it would.  Most kids don’t want to finish an assignment if they are bored.

So, lately we’ve been doing Sistine Spelling (tape the paper under your table and write your spelling words a la Michelangelo.


Then there’s Invisible Cursive:


Write your message in white crayon on white paper.  Then watercolor over it to reveal the message.

Yes, Kaia’s secret message to me says “Hag but head.  Bla Bla Bla. Bye.”  She realized that she’d spelled ‘butt’ incorrectly.  It is a very important word to know how to spell when you are 8!

Leif’s hands were definitely not idle while Kaia worked.

Speaking of Leif, he’s been begging me for his own curriculum (yes, he used that word!).  So, we’ve started with All About Reading Pre-1  I wasn’t planning on starting any official schooling with him for a few years.  He’s not even 3 yet.  But he knows his alphabet and wanted more.  So far this is perfect for him.  Kaia likes to join in his lessons and be my assistant teacher, and they both love using their magnetic doodle writer thingies (what are those things called anyway?)

How do you get creative with your lessons?  I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Leif’s crafting

It’s not just Kaia who’s been crafty lately.  Leif has been holding his own.  Aside from helping me create a parking garage for all of his cars:

He has recently had his hands in lots of gloop!  We discovered a recipe during a science lesson and he can’t get enough of it.  His little hands have been busy playing, making me gloop pancakes, gloop eggs, gloop on a stick…  It’s more addictive than play dough!


Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it yourself.

Sewing Lessons

Kaia has been begging me for sewing lessons lately.  She’s done a simple square purse on my machine before, but this time she decided to do something with a real pattern.  She chose a fabulous owl pillow.  I had to stop my hands from taking over and really let her do it all.  I gave her instructions on choosing the fabric and how to cut the pattern, how to change your stitch and how to make your seams…. but she took off and made an amazing pillow!  So proud of her!  I love to see how her mind opens to the possibilities when she learns a new talent.



Yes, the pajamas have changed… we started the project late at night, so she had to finish the next day.


The back has a little pocket.